Rina Gonzales, formerly the Chair of Hamilton City High School English Department, in Hamilton City, California, is currently on “loan” to Cal State University, Chico, teaching education courses and supervising eight student teachers. Born in El Salvador, Ms. Gonzales graduated from Sonoma State University and received her teaching credential from Sacramento State University.
Hamilton City High School, a Title I school, is located in the northern California rural community of Hamilton City. The High School has 325 students in grades 9-12, with a majority of students (56%) who are Hispanic and the remaining who are Caucasian (39%), Native American (2%) and African American (1%).
Ms. Gonzales was nominated for the Carlston Family Foundation Outstanding Teacher of America by three of her former students; Jamie Parker, Daniel Rodriguez and Micaela Mercado.
Jamie Parker took Ms. Gonzales’ Advanced Placement English classes and credits her with “keeping me on track by making certain I took the correct classes in high school in order to meet the requirements for admission to colleges of my choice. Because of her I was ultimately be admitted to Albertson College of Idaho. I was able to get an academic scholarship to attend Albertson and now I am majoring in Art.”
Daniel Rodriguez took English classes from Ms. Gonzales each of his four years of high school. Daniels says, “Ms. Gonzales shaped my academic life by guiding me from a 1.9 grade point average as a freshman to a GPA that led to my acceptance to University of California, Santa Cruz. I am now majoring in History and it is all because of Ms. Gonzales. She taught me to believe in myself and provided me with all the skills necessary to be successful at the university level.”
Micaela Mercado also had Ms. Gonzales for all four years of her high school career. Ms. Gonzales helped Micaela deal with the serious illness of her grandmother and helped her be sure she took the correct classes to prepare her for college and then assisted her with her college applications. Micaela was eventually be accepted to UCLA, where she majors in Biology and, ultimately, is hoping to attend medical school.
Because of her own educational and cultural background, Ms. Gonzales truly enjoys teaching students with cultural backgrounds similar to hers. She is able to capitalize on her cultural and early educations experiences in the United States educational system and is able to motivate her students to excel. She is characterized by her students as an “Amazing teacher, able to teach students at all levels and is equally comfortable teaching students with limited English skills as well as advanced placement and college bound students.”
Her students describe her teaching skills as “Creative and highly motivating. She makes her classes exciting and interesting and the material she taught us truly prepared us well for our college experiences.” Additionally, they reported she never gives up on a students and continues to pushed them in her classes and in life. They say she would not allow them “not to learn.” Her students feel they truly earn their success in her classes, thus improving their self esteem and self respect. Having Ms. Gonzales as their teacher gave them confidence to pursue goals they otherwise would not have considered.
Each year, Ms. Gonzales plans field trips to various colleges and universities, exposing her rural students to schools they frequently believe are beyond their reach and capabilities, either academically or financially. Because of this exposure and her continued guidance and support, several of her Hamilton City High School students, who are frequently first generation college students, have been accepted, admitted and have graduated from many of the University of California and California State University schools.
In addition, Ms. Gonzales works closely with the parents of her students who, in many cases, do not speak English, have little education themselves and who do not truly understand the educational system. She works to help them understand the importance of college and university attendance by their sons and daughters and helps find the necessary financing to assist students. In addition, as a leader in her school and community, she serves as an inspiring Mentor to younger teachers as well as her students and their families.